WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (AP) — Lorena Ochoa was in the lead and hitting her stride Thursday at the ADT Championship until a shocking finish to her round. She hit two balls into the water on the 17th hole for a quadruple bogey that sent her tumbling down the leaderboard.
“I was worried I was going to run out of balls,” she said with a laugh.
That would have been her only serious concern.
All that mattered for players on the first day of golf’s most peculiar tournament was not shooting themselves out of the 32-player event.
Christina Kim and Mi Hyun Kim will go in the books as co-leaders after both turned in bogey-free rounds of 5-under 67 on a breezy day at Trump International, one shot ahead of Juli Inkster and Paula Creamer.
Ochoa wound up with a 70 and was in seventh place, five shots ahead of the projected cut.
The cut will be made to 16 players after Friday and the slate will be wiped clean, so it didn’t matter which Kim shot what as long as they finish in the top 16 going into the weekend. After Saturday, the cut will be made to eight players and their scores again erased, leading to an 18-hole shootout Sunday for $1 million (682,240) , the richest prize in women’s golf.
Christina Kim, outspoken as ever, spoke for all eight players who managed to break par in the opening round.
“To be honest with you, my strategy from the beginning of the week was just try and beat 16 people for the first two days, and try and beat eight people on the third day, and then whatever happens on Sunday happens on Sunday,” she said. “Right now, I’m sitting in a pretty good position. If nothing more, it’s giving me the chance to get a whiff of it ($1 million) because I’m not … in 32nd position.”
That belongs to Annika Sorenstam, needing a victory this week to avoid her first winless season since she was a rookie in 1994. She played decently enough, but three balls in the water, all leading only to a bogey, sent her to a 74 and put her in a tie for 14th.
U.S. Women’s Open champion Cristie Kerr hit enough good shots and limited her mistakes to a 69, which left her tied for fifth with Catriona Matthew. It wasn’t a perfect round, but Kerr couldn’t argue with her position.
“You want to shoot low today to leave yourself a cushion,” Kerr said. “You just want to maintain a stress-free mentality for Friday.”
That’s why Ochoa didn’t seem terribly bothered by her quadruple bogey.
She ran off three straight birdies early in the round to get her name on the leaderboard, and made four birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine to take the outright lead. One of them came on the par-5 15th, when she pulled an 85-yard wedge just over the green and chipped in for birdie.
“It made me look good on TV,” said Ochoa, who celebrated her 26th birthday Thursday.
Not so happy was Laura Davies, who shot a 79, and Karrie Webb, who shot 42 on the back for a 76.
Inkster, who had to endure a playoff to qualify for the weekend last year, kept bogeys off her card in a solid round of 68. It wasn’t brilliant, but it was exactly what she needed.
“I played very conservative on a lot of the holes because you just don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot on the first day,” she said.
Sorenstam nearly did just that. Consecutive birdies on the 11th and 12th holes returned her to even par, but she stumbled down the stretch by hitting into the water on the par-5 15th for a bogey, and on the 17th for a bogey, and she dropped a shot on the last hole.
The goal Friday is to get a tee time on Saturday.
“I’m just going to play well and avoid the water,” Sorenstam said. “Take three less and I’m 1-under par. It’s just very, very close.”